In the economic times we are living in today, taking a cruise has become a very affordable way for a couple or a family to still be able to enjoy a vacation. Due to the growing popularity of a cruise, more people are questioning the travel requirements needed for U.S. Citizens.
Effective June 1, 2009, leniency has been allowed for U.S. Citizens taking a “closed-loop” cruise, where a U.S. passport will not be required to sail. A “closed-loop” cruise is defined as a sailing that originates and terminates in the same U.S. port.
Although a passport is not required for these “closed-loop” cruises, you will need proof of citizenship and a government-issued photo ID, such as an original or certified copy of a birth certificate and a driver’s license. If you are traveling with children, they will also be required to carry a birth certificate and a photo ID if over the age of 15.
However, if your cruise is scheduled to begin and end in different U.S. ports, or if it will begin and end in a foreign port, a valid passport or other recognized WHTI-compliant document is required. And note that a valid passport is required if you are traveling on any of the Europe cruises.
This new ruling will be great for a person taking a last minute cruise, and will not have the time to get a passport processed in time. But it is still highly recommended to cruise with a passport if possible. If for any reason you need to fly from the U.S. to a foreign port when missing your scheduled embarkation, or if you need to fly back to the U.S. midway through your cruise due to an emergency, this would not be possible without your passport.
Don’t misunderstand the leniency of the passport requirement with proof of citizenship. All people going on any cruise will still be required to show proof of citizenship in order to take a cruise. If you can’t present a valid document at check in, you will be denied boarding and no refund will be issued.
Investing in a U.S. passport is necessary, and certainly a wise investment for anyone wanting to see the world. But it is good to know that a person can still get away for a 3 day cruise, or even longer without one. Just be sure your cruise will qualify for the exception to the rule. Happy sailing!